Battery - A Drum / Percussion Dedicated Tool

One of the best places to start our drum discussion is in Battery - a tool dedicated to drums and percussion.  Since Battery is a sample-based tool, the truth is that it will playback any sound loaded into it - not just drums! However, it’s most useful features belong to drums so typically, that’s what people use it for.

An empty Battery - each cell on the upper right has no sample loaded yet.

The basic layout of Battery is:

  • The Navigation.  While many of the NI tools have a standardized file structure, Battery is slightly different. On the left, you can still search by Library or Files as well as choose from categories of drum sounds between Kits (whole drum sets) and Samples (individual sounds).
  • The Cells.  Here, you’ll load individual sounds to each “cell”, located in the intersection of the 4 columns and rows. Each cell can handle one audio sample. For now, think of each cell as relating to a unique MIDI note, where triggering a single note triggers a single sample.
  • The Audio Sample.  Under the cells lives the audio and sampel area. When you highlight a cell, the sample appears and you can adjust parameters like the MIDI pitch of the cell, the start / end time of the sample as well as the pitch, pan, volume and direction of the sample being played.
  • The Tabs.  At the bottom are several tabs - each of which contains a collection of parameters for the sound. All but the Master tab are set uniquely to each sound.

The general workflow in Battery is to load in a preset kit and start playing - that's it!  That is by far the fastest way to work here and frankly, the presets are so good that you’ll likely have success straight away.

Note that Battery calls the collection of all the sounds and programming on a single field of cells a “Kit”, much like a drummer would call the collection of drums being played the "kit", or "set". Loading a kit is the same as loading in an entire drum kit with lots of different types of drums to play.

[TO DO - Loading in Drum Kits to Battery]

  1. Either within your DAW or on its own, open Battery. 
  2. An empty kit will appear, showing you the field of cells. If you were previously working in another kit, you can empty the kit by choosing FIle -> New Kit.
  3. Begin at the top of the Navigation area by selecting Library -> Kits - > Drums. You can further refine your list of Kits by choosing from the 5 different types of Kits shown (Acoustic Drum Kit, Analog Drum Kit etc).
  4. Click on the first kit - the “2 Funk Kit” to load it. You’ll see the cells fill with data, letting you know the kit is loaded.
  5. Click through the various cells and/or trigger them with your MIDI keyboard. Note that the sounds begin playback on the notes C1 and work their way up to B4.
  6. Load another drum Kit and also surf through the individual sounds.

TIP:  Note that there are at least 140 different drum kits available in Battery - and that’s just the drums! There are more for percussion and sound effects as well! With each kit occupying 72 individual drum sounds, the total sounds in Battery exceeds 10,000 sounds! This should keep you busy for a while….

Tweaking the Presets

Odds are, one of the kits in Battery will get you the sounds you’re looking for. However, you may need to make tweaks to the Kit to get the sounds more closely to what you desire.  By clicking on any individual cells, lots of parameters become available to tweak for each sound. Let’s explore some of the basics:

Adjusting the MIDI notes that trigger the cell(s).

By default, each cell is triggered by a single MIDI note. In fact, you should know that each row represents a single octave - from C(x) - B(x). In this way, the first row holds the notes C1 through B1 and the start of the next row is C2.

However, this is just the default. 

You can have each cell respond to multiple MIDI notes, allowing for interesting layeredresults. For example, you can choose to have any - or even all - of the sounds respond to certain MIDI notes by adjusting the Key Range function on the right of the Sample area.

This is the location of the Key Range setting. Note that this setting is unique for each cell - this one pertains to cell A1.

A close-up view of the key range parameter. The left "C1" is the lowest triggering note for this cell while the right "C1" is the highest triggering note. Each are fully selectable and adjustable to different notes. 

Here, the low note and high note set a range of MIDI notes that will trigger the cell.  Each cell is defined by a range of incoming MIDI notes that will trigger the sound in that cell. The first cell would likely be set to “C1/C1” which indicates that C1 is both the lower part of the range and the upper part of the range. 

Effectively, this is a single-note range where only that one note will trigger the sound. You can, however, widen this range for interesting sounds where a single note triggers more than a single sound.

For example, if you want the note C1 to trigger the first two cells on a row, change the key range of the second note to also accept C1 as a part of the range of incoming triggers. This allows you to be very flexible and to create much bigger sounds by triggering several sounds at once!

[TO DO - Adjusting the Key Range]

  1. Either within your DAW or on its own, open Battery. 
  2. Load in a kit.
  3. Play the note C1 from your MIDI keyboard. Note how it triggers the first cell in the first row only. C1 usually defaults to playing cell A1 only but some preset kits might be programmed to trigger multiple cells at once with a single MIDI note.  
  4. Highlight the cell on row 1 but now column 2 - cell A2. Note that it’s key range is likely “C#1/C#1” which indicates that it will only be triggered by the note C# (C sharp).
  5. Adjust the low end of the key range to be C1. The resulting range should show “C1/C#1”.
  6. Play the note C1 on the MIDI keyboard and note how the one note triggers both samples - from cells A1 and A2 - creating a layered drum sound.

Adjusting the pitch of the sample.

Some drums are actually pitched instruments and play a note that matches the keyboard or a piano. Some are not, of course. In either case, a triggered drum sample might sound too “high” or “low” and might need adjusting. You might also want to play with the pitch of a sample to make it different from the preset and more custom.  This is super easy by adjusting the “Tune” knob.

Note the Tune knob directly above the Key Range. Here, you can quickly raise or lower the pitch of the sample in semi-tones.

Simple enough, just play the sound and adjust the knob up or down. Note how the pitch of the sample moves up and down along with the knob! Also note that here, pitch and time are linked - if you increase the pitch, you increase the speed of playback, making the sound shorter. This can be a very fun way to create bizarre and unique sounds from simple sources!

Adding Effects.

Audio effects are a fast and fun way to adjust the samples so that they take on a slightly different tonality and behavior.

The location of the Effects tab along the bottom of Battery.

The effects live in the Effects tab at the bottom of Battery but there are different kinds of effects that live in each area. Under the Effects tab are options for sample manipulation that mostly revolve around real-time processing. By that we mean effects that immediately adjust the sound and stop the second playback stops. 

Each of the 5 slots represents a different type of effect - from Saturation to Compression. To the left of each title is a power button used to activate and deactivate the particular effect. You can also load in presets by clicking on the arrow to the right of the title of the effect.

Navigating the presets within the Saturation effect - use the small disclosure triangle to find them.

 [TO DO - Playing with Effects on the Effects tab]

  1. Either within your DAW or on its own, open Battery. 
  2. Load in a kit. For our example, we’ve loaded in the “Alte Fabrik” Kit as it will showcase this process well. You can load in any Kit.
  3. Play the note C1 from your MIDI keyboard. It should be a kick drum - “Alte Fabrik 1”.
  4. Show the Effects tab along the bottom.
  5. On the right, under the Transient Modulation effect TMa, adjust the Attack and Sustain values all the way to the right, as well as the Input below it. If you compare before and after, you’ll find the volume increases dramatically with a longer attack and sustain value.
  6. On the left, activate LoFi and Set the Bits value to 12, the Hertz value to 4.2 and the noise all the way up. Note how much louder, noisier and distorted the kick has become.
  7. Continue to play with different samples and different effects to see how these combine to create unique sounds from simple sources.